With air travel becoming so expensive, not to mention stressful, it makes sense to hop in your car and go. When you factor in wait times, delays, and inconvenience , an old fashioned road trip makes a lot of sense, especially for a family with kids. Yes, gas is pricey, but nothing compared to an airline ticket with transport to and from airports. If planned well, a road trip can be an enjoyable experience for you and your family, with the added benefit of having your own vehicle at your destination.
Here are a few tips to save you cash while traveling by car:
Gas- Don't just fill up your car and plan on refilling when you get close to empty. Stopping more frequently can save money by finding the best prices and taking advantage of them. Use internet sites like GasBuddy.com to seek out the best bargains on your route. A steady foot on the gas will give the best gas milage, so avoid heavy acceleration.
Remember to not exceed posted speed limits, which vary from state to state, by more than 10%. Most police and highway patrol will give you that leeway to account for speedometer discrepancies. A speeding ticket can really put a damper on your expenses.
Food- Aside from gas and lodging this will be your biggest expense, especially if you have a car full of kids. Before leaving on your trip, pack as much food as you can depending on the length of your trip. Stopping for fast food is the most expensive and unhealthy meal possible. I don't use freezer packs, I freeze a lot of small plastic bottles of water which I use to keep perishables fresh, as well, these frozen bottles in a cooler bag, defrost slowly so there is always some cold water on the drive.If properly frozen, a dozen or so small bottles of water in a good insulated cooler will stay frozen for 2 days. Bring along packets of your family's favorite powdered drink, like Kool Aid or sugar free no calorie Crystal Lite. These are easily poured into the bottles of water and slake your kids desire for pop. Fresh veggies like carrots and celery replace the need for snack stops. Tofu based dips keep well in cooler bags.
Bread, peanut butter, bagged snacks and even canned goods like tuna ( don't forget the can opener ) are very easy to prep and keep well in a cooler. Deli meats on the other hand are high in salt and can go bad easily. For trips lasting more than 1 day I don't recommend deli meats, the salt only serves to retain water causing more bathroom stops along the way.
For every dollar in food you pack yourself, you save 3 dollars on junk you would buy on the road. You would be surprised how much money and time you can save by bringing along healthy food.
Hotels/Motels- Lodging can be the most expensive part of the trip if not researched properly. Thanks to the internet, you can plan where you want to stay and reserve ahead of time. Reserving your room ahead of time, even as far as a few months, can save you money. Most major hotel chains offer promotion codes, they don't tell you that on their web sites, you have to search the web for these codes. Promo codes can save you a fair amount of money so take the time to search the coupon sites.
I like to pick hotels with locations not more than a mile off my route, but not right on the highway. That way I can get a good night sleep without the drone of traffic disturbing me. If you have experience with a specific chain of hotels, don't take for granted that they are all alike. You might have had a great stay in one location, but have a horrible stay in another. I choose national chains only because most of them have some sort of standards. Other than that one rule, I go for price.
I have found, over time, that all hotels are pretty much the same. The rooms are never as clean as you would like. The beds, pillows and especially the blankets and bedspreads are filthy. So I don't let that factor into my choice. To alleviate the stress of dubious bedding, allergens and bedbugs, I pack a few travel sheets like Allersac from Allersac.com. That way I know my family are sleeping on clean sheets with no contact with the hotel bedding.
A wetted towel placed on the blower unit provides moist air for those dry winter stays.Don't be swayed by the " free breakfast " claims, most of the food at these freebies is fat and sugar laden, and the coffee is usually horrible. I grab some toast with peanut butter or jam or cream cheese and try not to eat their other "baked" goods or what they call eggs.
With proper planning, packing your own food ,choosing an inexpensive hotel and using an Allersac, your road trip can be easy, healthy, safe, and, save you a whole lot of cash, happy trails.